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Off-form players, youngsters eye fortune in ODIs

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Pune, March 22 (IANS) India skipper Virat Kohli has called on his out-of-form batsman K.L Rahul to ignore criticism from outside the team camp, and retain self-belief amid his poor run of scores of 1,0,0 and 14 that saw him getting dropped for the last T20 game against England.

“When I think of ‘form and out-of-form’, my mind goes to the song, kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna; chhodo, bekaar ki baaton mein kahin beet na jaaye raina (people will talk, their job is to talk; leave all the useless talks for we may lose the night in that),” the India captain said while explaining how he takes on criticism.

While the ODI series that begins on Tuesday may not be significant for most of the players in a year that has seen the focus on Tests and T20 Internationals, for the likes of K.L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, it assumes significance if they are to remain serious contenders for the squad in T20 World Cup that is scheduled to be held later this year in India.

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Both these batsmen, as well as the youngsters who are also trying to make a mark, will take this series as an opportunity to gear up for the T20 World Cup in a year in which the focus is on Test matches and T20s due to the World Test Championship final, the five-Test series in England and the T20 World Cup.

Players like Rahul though have the backing of their captain Kohli who said there could be a hidden agenda behind many of the criticism.

“There is a lot of impatience outside the cricket set-up. People have their point of view, have their own ideas as to what is going on in players’ mind. That (eventually) becomes a judgement. People have become fond of hearing criticism regularly. So if a player is down, people love putting him down further,” said Kohli while defending Rahul.

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“But in the team, we understand how to manage players, (especially) those players who are going through a rough patch. It is not that you forget playing cricket, but there is less mental clarity. And in that phase you also begin to notice that people are saying that you are out of form. So that is an external factor you (end up) putting in the system. Cricket is a simple game. You have to see the ball, react and hit the ball.

It is a game that is played in the moment. All these outside talks, to be very honest are useless. We don’t let that come in the team and won’t let it come in the future,” said Kohli while saying that people could be criticising for some ulterior motive.

If Rahul is picked in the eleven, it could be in the middle-order as the opening combination is already set with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma opening. He could also come in at No. 3. But since he is also a wicketkeeper, he may sit out as Rishabh Pant has proven his credentials as the No. 1 wicketkeeper.

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Whatever opportunities both Rahul and Dhawan get, they will have to encash quickly to be in reckoning for a place in the T20 World Cup. The Indian Premier League next month will be another opportunity for all such players to make a case for themselves.

There are youngsters breathing down their neck for the batting slots especially in the T20 format ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Pant has made it back to the white ball squads as first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman. Suryakumar Yadav is also there and is building his case. Ishan Kishan, who impressed in the T20 series, is not in the ODI squad. Yadav, Kishan and Pant make themselves certainty as of now, going by their current form.

“There are couple of things that we want to keep an eye on… It will be interesting because there are a few youngsters who are getting an opportunity in the one-day set-up for the first time. I am really keen to see how they go about executing their skills against a very, very strong England side,” said Kohli while speaking to the media.

He was referring to Yadav, yet to play an ODI, and pace bowler M Prasidh Krishna, who could be playing his first international for India.

–IANS

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